Graham warns Trump on Taliban deal in Afghanistan: Learn from 'Obama's mistakes'

Graham warns Trump on Taliban deal in Afghanistan: Learn from 'Obama's mistakes'
© Aaron Schwartz

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP group's ad calls on Graham to push for election security: 'Are you still trying?' Cruz to oppose Trump appeals court pick Senators pressure Trump to help end humanitarian crisis in Kashmir MORE (R-S.C.), a foreign policy hawk and close ally of President TrumpDonald John TrumpSupreme Court comes to Trump's aid on immigration Trump is failing on trade policy Trump holds call with Netanyahu to discuss possible US-Israel defense treaty MORE, warned the White House against withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in a deal with the Taliban.

“American service members are not acting as policemen in Afghanistan. They are the front-line defense for America against the reemergence of radical Islamist groups who wish to attack the American homeland,” Graham said in a statement. “To trust the Taliban to control al-Qaeda, ISIS-K, and other radical Islamist groups present in Afghanistan – as a replacement for a US counter-terrorism force – would be a bigger mistake than Obama’s Iranian nuclear deal.” 

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“Any peace agreement which denies the US a robust counter-terrorism capability in Afghanistan is not a peace deal. Instead, it is paving the way for another attack on the American homeland and attacks against American interests around the world,” he added.

“President Trump should learn from President Obama’s mistakes. Be smart, take your time, and listen to your national security team.”

Graham has long advocated for a more muscular foreign policy, including advocating for strong U.S. intervention in the Middle East, saying a physical force in the region is needed to prevent terrorist attacks from reaching the mainland. He was harshly critical of President Obama’s decision to withdraw from Iraq, saying the move helped lead to the rise of groups like ISIS.

Graham’s statement comes after reports surfaced that Trump was set to meet with his national security team Friday afternoon to discuss a pending peace agreement with the Taliban. A senior official noted to reporters that Trump has “been pretty clear” about his desire to withdraw from Afghanistan.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the special envoy for Afghan peace talks, has been negotiating with the Taliban for months on a deal to end America’s war in Afghanistan that would see a withdrawal of troops in exchange for assurances from the group that it would not let the country become a base for terrorist organizations to launch attacks against the U.S. 

Khalilzad said the last round of talks earlier this month was “productive,” though a deal’s finalization has been hindered by the Taliban’s refusal of inter-Afghan talks that the U.S. has pushed.

The Pentagon has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan on a dual mission of both training, advising and assisting local forces in the fight against the Taliban and running counterterrorism operations against groups like al Qaeda and ISIS.